If you have been living on the internet for some time, there might be a chance that you encountered the word “API” when browsing. Well, for starters API is the abbreviation for Application Programming Interface.
What is Application Programming Interface, you wonder? Generally speaking, it is a way for a certain product or service to be able to “communicate” with other products or services without the need to know how they’re implemented. It enables software developers to use some, if not all data or information from other products or services to operate on their software.
An API however, it’s not something that can be accessed by anyone as it requires something called an API key for any developers or users who need the information from the API to gain access.
Then, what is an API key?
An API key is a unique identifier that is used to authenticate and authorise access to an API. API keys are typically generated by the API provider and are assigned to each user or application that wants to access the API.
API keys can also be used to control access to the API, track usage, and prevent unauthorised access. Therefore, if someone did have access to the shared information, they can’t use them in whatever they want because if the owner did find that the shared information is used for an exploitative purpose, they can revoke the API access from that user. Each generated API key also needs to pass through the API gateways.
What is an API gateway? And how is that connected to the API key?
To answer that, the API gateway itself is part of what makes the API key exist, to begin with. Each user who needs API keys has to “ask” the API gateway and it then provides the keys that have been adjusted to the specification.
Simply put, the API gateway can be used to handle generating API keys, managing API keys permissions, as well as fulfilling a command of revoking the shared API keys under the API owner’s command.
Here are several ways that API Gateway can be used to control access to APIs based on API keys:
- Require API keys: API Gateway can be configured to require API keys for all requests to an API. This can help to prevent unauthorised access to the API.
- Create usage plans: API Gateway can be used to create usage plans that define how many requests and how much data can be consumed by each API key. This can help you to manage the costs associated with your API.
- Track API usage: API Gateway can be used to track the usage of each API key. This information can be used to identify which APIs are being used the most and to identify any potential problems.
Now that we know what API keys and API gateways are, what is an API and how does it work?
APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are a way for two software applications to communicate with each other. APIs are used to access data, functionality, and services from other applications.
When you use an API, you are essentially making a request to another application. The application that you are requesting to is called the “server”. The application that you are using to make the request is called the “client”.
The request that you make to the server is called an “API call”. What is an API call? An API call, or API request, is a message sent to a server asking an API to provide a service or information. In this case, the server will then respond to your API call with a response. The response from the server will contain the data, functionality, or service that you requested which then passes through the API gateway and then to the end user.
Real-life function of an API can usually be seen on:
- Weather APIs: These APIs can be used to get weather data, such as the current temperature, humidity, and forecast.
- Maps APIs: These APIs can be used to get map data, such as the location of businesses, landmarks, and roads.
- Social media APIs: These APIs can be used to get data from social media platforms, such as the number of followers that a user has, or the latest posts that a user has made.
- Payment APIs: These APIs can be used to process payments, such as credit card payments and PayPal payments.
- Shipping APIs: These APIs can be used to get shipping information, such as the cost of shipping a package, or the estimated delivery date.
The nature of API itself is to help streamline and save time and effort on software development. Learning how to use APIs is essential to become a software developer aside from learn to code.
APIs for beginners
There are several ways to start learning about API. One of which is by looking for API tutorials. There are many tutorials available online that can teach the basics of APIs. These tutorials will typically cover topics such as how to make API calls, how to parse API responses, and how to use APIs in your applications.
Reading through API documentation can also be a great help in understanding API as most APIs come with documentation that explains how to use them. This documentation will typically include information such as the API’s endpoints, the data that the API returns, and the HTTP methods that can be used to make API calls.
Lastly, taking up on courses is also a great way to quickly learn about them. Typically, an API course will include topics such as the basics of APIs, how to use APIs in different programming languages, and how to secure APIs.
In conclusion to what are APIs, it is a way for two software applications to communicate with each other using a key called API key that was generated from the API gateway.
How do APIs work? It works by making a request to the server which is called an API call or API request, which the server then responds by providing data, functionality, or service that you requested which then passes through the API gateway then to the end user.
The usage of APIs can commonly be found in weather applications, maps, social media, payment apps, and tracking shippings.
Looking for tutorials, courses, and documentation about APIs are a great way to kickstart learning about API as it is quite an essential skill to understand for software developers as the nature of API itself is to save time and effort on software development.